BOCA RATON – What’s old is new again for FAU defensive tackle Ray Ellis.
“I’m trying to get adjusted to it because it’s all new stuff – I have to learn it from scratch,” Ellis said. “There are new coaches here, they don’t know how I play, so that was my mindset that when I got back, I could show them what I could do and get back on the field.”
Ellis, who last played in November 2015, is one of several key returning Owls that missed the entirety of spring camp recovering from an injury. Fellow defensive lineman Hunter Snyder was kept out because of injury, while the absences linebackers Azeez Al-Shaair and Khantrell Burden absences led to several walk-ons earning time at those spots.
Al-Shaair, a captain in 2016, felt confident returning to practice more than seven months after his December 21 labrum surgery.
“You’re a little rusty, but I watched a lot of film so it’s kind of easy for me to go back out here,” Al-Shaair said. “I’m really good at looking at something a thousand times, so it wasn’t (as bad) as I thought.”
Though Al-Shaair was cleared for some work during spring, he was kept out of drills and was inactive for the spring game.
Preparing to move to middle linebacker from the outside, Al-Shaair has been a full participant in all three practices to begin the fall. In the middle Al-Shaair is the likely replacement for Nate Ozdemir, who left the team this spring to join the United States Marine Corps.
“I did a lot of the play-calling and stuff like that [last year], always trying to make sure I knew everything on the field,” Al-Shaair said. “Now, I’m in the position to actually do that stuff.”
On the other side of the ball, redshirt sophomore quarterback Daniel Parr can relate to what Ellis and Al-Shaair are experiencing. After battling Jason Driskel for the starting quarterback spot last year and even starting against Rice, Parr underwent surgery on March 1 for a broken foot and missed the entirety of spring ball.
“It’s been about eight month since I was able to practice so it was good to be back out there and good to be back in the swing of things,” Parr said.
Parr has worked primarily with the third team on a separate field from where Driskel and Johnson’s daily rotation with the first and second units.
But while Parr did state that he has to “play catch up a bit” after missing the spring, the Dwyer graduate doesn’t believe he’s behind in the quarterback race.
“Mentally, I feel great – I know the offense and obviously, there’s things I still need to get better at,” Parr said. “But mentally and physically, I feel just as good as I always have.”